Different roles in opera are performed using particular voice types. Each is designed for different types of singers and the differential in vocal range in performance is the secret behind the richness of variety and distinctiveness in every classical opera performance.
Opera voices can therefore be classified into different types that fall into either the masculine or feminine category. Of course there is always some certain degree of succinct overlaps. Baritone is the most common singing voice that is used predominantly by men. It is far lower in term of range than tenor and is often accompanied by a dark hue. Although some Mozart pieces such as Papageno and Count Almaviva are considered predominantly as of the baritone variety, no major distinction is drawn between baritone and bass.
Verdi always used his peculiar baritone voice to display various dramatic qualities. Many music commentators today consider “Verdi baritone” as a distinct type of voice. Such a voice must be of highly dynamic quality, the kind of quality that enables one to perform lyrical performances with relative ease.
Bass often comes with several subcategories. This is the lowest male voice and also the very lowest. There are many instances of operatic basses in serious classical operatic literature which differs starkly from comic bass. In Mozart’s work, characters that fell under lower social strata were given bass parts that seemed to fit in with their perceived low social standing.
Baritone-bass is the singing voice that ranges anywhere between bass and baritone. The German repertoire is the one that imposed this requirement. In “The Ring”, a role like Wotan was performed using bass-baritone voice. This voice is usually of a higher pitch than what many people would describe as a prototypical bass. Another typical German bass-baritone role is “Godunov”.
Contralto is the lowest voice among all female types of opera voices. This voice is truly extremely rare and difficult to find in opera performances. It was used in Katishaís role in The Mikado. Today, there is a conspicuous lack of contralto voices, with a very remarkable exception of Eva Podles. Sometimes parts that require this type of voice are taken by mezzos with the resulting opera quality being just as good.
Coloratura mezzo voices also require an exceptional ability to sing a register that is rather on the lower side. It is the kind of voice that is reserved for ornamented performances that require flexibility and rapidity of passage recitations. Most hero roles of Handel’s operas that were originally sung exclusively by male castrati are today often sung using mezzo-sopranos.
Mezzo-soprano falls on a rather lower range of femininity. This type of voice has traditionally been used by opera composers to describe different types of characters. Any character that may be described in terms of anything that ranges between a boy and a young man can be developed using this type of singing voice.
[ad#downcont]Other types of voices are dramatic and lyric soprano. Dramatic soprano is the “heaviest” soprano type that is very common in the Italian repertoire, evident in Tosca, Aida and Butterfly. Lyric soprano ranges on a lower level compared to coloratura. A good example of that voice is in Carmen where it is used to develop Micaela.